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Community can protect itself from impact of mental illness, businessman and speaker will tell event

A Wonderful Story to be told

By Kieran Hughes

“There’s nothing simpler than looking at the goodness in other people. The difficult part is to tell them what you see.”

The opening lines to John Mooney’s 2005 children’s story, A Wonderful Story offer a life affirming philosophy that is designed to show young people how communicating good thoughts can have a profoundly positive effect on their friends and family.

The lines also contain the essence of what leading community based suicide prevention charities, PIPS Programmes and the Níamh Louise Foundation, hold dearest – that we all have the power to help our loved ones, colleagues or neighbours who may be suffering from mental illness.

Later this month John, who is chairman of Níamh Louise Foundation, will deliver that message at a unique conference in Belfast and Antrim organised by the two groups. Breaking the Silence: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Community, supported by the Belfast Media Group, is a community event highlighting mental wellbeing, resilience and suicide awareness.

As well as being a children’s author and motivational speaker, John is also head of one of the North’s biggest hotel groups, the Mooney Hotel Group.

The everyday contact with people from all walks of life gives him the opportunity to practice what he preaches every day, but his message is that we can all play a part.

“It’s all about encouraging people to see the goodness in other people but don’t keep it secret – tell them what you see,” he said.

“It’s no good me thinking “you are quite good” but not telling you. You have to be able to open up and tell people and the hardest people to tell are the people closest to you. And I think that’s the challenge, because the closer you are to a person the more you mean to them so they feel you are doing something very good and it instills in them something very deep.”

Since it was published in 2005 A Wonderful Story has raised over £500,000 for suicide charities in Ireland. Now over 1,000 school teachers in the North are using the book and a new animation to teach children how to make others feel appreciated.

Templepatrick man John says he hopes the conference can have a similar impact.

“I really want the conference to be different and bring people together. Currently if somebody is in distress they have four or five options to go to and that makes it harder for them to go for help. It’s about bringing different groups like Níamh Louise Foundation and PIPS together.

“There are things that each of us can learn from each other and that is all the more reason that we have to come together.”

John added the strength of the community is also key.

“I don’t believe that government can do anything because it is so slow and unwieldy, I am not trying to run anyone down, that’s just the way it works. The real true gift and the real help and support comes from the community. What is the community? It’s you and me. I just try to live by seeing value in someone else and telling them what I see and that’s what the community can do. The greatest gift you can have is sensitivity and the secret is to make sure people see their own worth and own value.”

He says people like PIPS founder Philip McTaggart and his Níamh Louise Foundation counterpart, Catherine McBennett, who have both lost children to suicide, can be the inspiration for others.

“I really believe in the strength of people and I believe that everybody has a gift and it’s only when you are broken sometimes you find your gift and from that it’s trying to let people see they have a gift and encouraging it out of them.


The Belfast based leg of Breaking The Silence: Shoulder To Shoulder With The Community conference takes place at Conway Mill on Thursday May 17 from 10am to 3pm. Everyone is encouraged to come along. For further details contact PIPS on 90805850.


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